Buck-Crockett: ‘we are doing this to bring a national championship to FIU’

Oscar Baldizon/ Staff Writer

 

The Panthers are picking up right where they finished last year’s stellar season and performing even better in only the sand volleyball program’s second year on campus. At the helm is Head Coach Rita Buck-Crockett who has found a home here in South Florida where she is pioneering a sand volleyball program that could become the pride of FIU.

FIU has already surpassed the amount of wins they had last year with a 9-2 record so far. The surprising part is that they are doing it with a very young team that is dealing with injuries and still finding its’ identity.

With Jessica Mendoza out, Giovanna Pasos, a freshmen from Brazil, has stepped into the first team spot and hasn’t missed a beat with her No. 1 tandem partner, Jessica Gehrke. There are also three freshmen, from an amazing first recruiting class for Buck-Crockett, that are starting on the top five teams this season which speaks volumes about the depth on this team.

“The character of this team is at a level of almost reaching “Miami swag;” where no matter who we plug in to play we feel like we got a great chance to win every match,” Buck Crockett said.

 

Facing top-tier competition

 

When FIU went to the AVCA National Sand Volleyball championships last year and was the only college to have two teams finish in the top five, they set a standard for what’s to come with this program over the next few years.

Buck-Crockett recognizes during the program’s inaugural season there were players still learning the game and there was lot more teaching going on than coaching. Players still had to learn the basics and there were a decent amount of girls from the indoor program playing as well. After a great showing at AVCA’s last year, Buck-Crockett wasn’t shy during recruiting this off season and she has raised the level of athlete in this program. Now with a solid group of actual sand volleyball players the team is able to move faster through its progression and focus more time on strategy and tactics.

The Panthers haven’t shied away from a high level competition in the regular season either. It is now halfway through the season and FIU has already squared off against the likes of Florida State University and Georgia State. Both of which the Panthers ran into at the finals of the AVCA championships last year. The team was still figuring out its rotation early on in the season when they faced FSU and Buck-Crockett attributes a “bad day,” for the loss to GSU.

 

Championship dreams

 

FIU still has two big competitions left this season including the FIU Surf & Turf Tournament and Siesta Keys Tournament. They will face off against teams such as LSU, FAU, and FGCU giving the team a chance to continue improving.

Buck-Crockett could be cautious, or even wary, on the topic of national championships, like most head coaches that prefer to stick to clichés, but she is a different breed of coach. The former Olympian commands respect and has everyone on the team buying into her vision.

“It’s obvious in my mind what we want. We are doing this to bring a national championship to FIU, that’s why I’m out here coaching, and that means molding the culture of the team and everyone involved into a professional and championship mindset,” Buck-Crockett said.

 

-oscar.baldizon@fiusm.com

 

About the Author

Oscar Baldizon
: Radio Host for Panther Sports Talk Live. Majoring in Broadcast Media, Class of 2016. Enjoy long walks on the beach and dishing out savvy sports knowledge.

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